If you read all the way through David Brooks’s column today, you’ll find him making some politically incorrect remarks about third-world aid.
After comparing the devastation of wrought by the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti to the very limited damage done by the ’89 Bay Area 7.0 quake, Brooks starts to go into the reasons he thinks Haiti is so poor and dysfunctional.
We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.
…the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.
These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.
It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.
Imposing American values on other cultures is bad enough. But American middle class values? The thought police are going to get Brooks for sure.